Special to ESPN.com
Last week we shook the cobwebs of eight months of inactivity as college baseball got out the bats, balls and gloves for the opening weekend. But things will get amped up a bit this weekend as more teams will actually play somebody with a pulse. After having just one three-game series between ranked opponents last weekend, there will be great matchups like Cal State Fullerton-TCU, Stanford-Vanderbilt and Texas-Hawaii this weekend. We'll also start to see more surprise teams and more disappointments get affirmed after the upcoming three games.
The five biggest questions for Week 2:
1. Can Stanford do it again? The Cardinal won two of three at Rice, now they head to face an even more talented arm staff in Vanderbilt. Yikes.
2. Who will win the battle of the aces in Ft. Worth? Fullerton's Noe Ramirez goes up against Frog stud Matt Purke on Friday night in Lupton Stadium. In a word, tasty.
3. Can Hawaii ambush another mainland invader? Last week the Warriors put a pair of losses on top-10 Oregon. Now Texas comes calling. Don't look for this to be a weekend in paradise, Longhorns.
4. Is North Carolina for real? OK, we won't find out much from a three-game set with Seton Hall, but it will be interesting to see whether the Heels have a letdown after last week's uber-successful West Coast trip.
5. Will the attendance boom continue for a second weekend? There were a handful of attendance records broken last weekend, including TCU attracting over 6,000 for the Friday night game with Kansas. In all, 21 programs averaged over 3,000 fans a game for the opening weekend.
South Carolina's talented transfers
Special to ESPN.com
Call them The Talented Transfers.
Nearly half of South Carolina's starting hitters on opening day played previously at another college.
Miami Dade College's Adrian Morales started at third, Palm Beach State's Peter Mooney at shortstop, Pensacola's Robert Beary at DH and Florida State transfer Brady Thomas at catcher.
In total, coach Ray Tanner's Gamecocks have nine transfers on this year's roster, and three of them -- Morales, Thomas and reliever Jose Mata (Broward) -- had major roles in helping South Carolina win the 2010 College World Series.
"Coach Tanner said he likes junior college transfers," Morales said, "because we're ready to play right away."
Morales certainly was, being named MVP of the Columbia Regional. Thomas was another immediate hit, making the 2010 CWS All-Tournament team. And Mata was 7-1 with a 2.40 ERA out of the bullpen.
More trends: Of the nine transfers, six came from Florida schools. Three of the transfers came from other four-year schools: Thomas, outfielder Jake Williams (Wofford) and pitcher Logan Munson (North Carolina). All three had success at their previous schools before deciding to return to their home state.
The Gamecocks' other junior college transfers are catcher Dante Rosenberg from Palm Beach, who started the second game this season, and pitcher Bryan Harper (College of Southern Nevada), who went 1 2/3 scoreless innings that same day.
Of this year's crop of junior transfers, Mooney is known as a slick fielder; Williams was a two-year starter at Wofford, hitting .304 with eight homers as a sophomore; and Munson had a 2.61 ERA as a sophomore at North Carolina.
But perhaps the most intriguing story is Harper, the older brother of Bryce Harper, who signed with the Washington Nationals after becoming the first pick in the 2010 MLB draft.
Bryan is a good prospect in his own right. He was 10-1 with a 2.18 ERA in juco ball last season and has already been drafted twice -- 31st round in 2008 and 27th last year.
"He's going to be a big part of this team," Morales said. "He's got good stuff, and he has some swag, too. He's just getting comfortable right now."
Harper and the rest of the newcomers will have plenty of time to "get comfortable." The Gamecocks play 18 of their first 21 games at home and won't leave the state until March 25, when they open a weekend set at the University of Florida, the team many are predicting will replace South Carolina as CWS champs.
The Gamecocks, 3-0 after sweeping Santa Clara last weekend, are led by Jackie Bradley Jr., the star center fielder and likely 2011 first-round pick. Bradley got off to a great start this year with a 4-for-4 performance Friday, just missing a cycle with a homer, double and single.
"He may be the best hitter I've ever played with," Morales said. "He has great instincts in the outfield. He isn't afraid to go 0-2 [count at the plate]. He battles. He competes every practice. He is always smiling, very charismatic."
There is no denying Bradley's skill but don't forget about the Talented Transfers.
Places to be this weekend
Special to ESPN.com
We can't be everywhere, but if we could, here's where we'd be:
Teams involved: Bethune-Cookman, Southern, Grambling, UC Irvine
Yes, I realize this isn't the marquee teams in the country going head-to-head here, but there are a number of factors that make this the coolest spot to be this weekend in college baseball. This will be the best collection of HBCUs in one place, they'll have the television cameras of the MLB Network and there is the usual handful of Hall of Famers in attendance as well. Oh, and did I mention this is the only venue in the country that will have B-CU and Southern in a battle of the bands? Too good.
Key stat: .487. The usually pitching-heavy Anteaters of UC Irvine are hitting .383 with 22 walks and 12 HBPs in four games, giving them a .487 on-base percentage.
Key matchup: UC Irvine versus Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats have been the best HBCU program for the past half-decade and once again appear to have the best collection of talent for 2011. My hope is that coach Mervyl Melendez holds ace Ali Simpson to this start on Saturday and gives us a great show against the surprisingly heavy-hitting Anteaters. Simpson K'd 14 in just 6.0 innings of work in last week's first start against Alabama A&M.
2. No. 9 Cal State Fullerton at No. 2 TCU
Both teams had their struggles last week. Fullerton dropped a game to North Carolina in 11 innings and also made the mortal mistake of losing to its rivals in Long Beach State. The Horned Frogs aren't going to lose too many Friday and Saturday games with Matt Purke and Kyle Winkler on the mound. But on Sunday, they dropped a 14-inning 4-3 decision to Kansas.
Key stat: Two-and-one. In 11 combined innings of work last weekend, Purke and Winkler gave up just two hits and one walk.
Key matchup: Fullerton's bullpen versus TCU's offense. I know, the matchup that puts this series up in lights is the Friday night showdown of All-American aces Noe Ramirez and Matt Purke on the mound. But keep an eye on the later innings since the Titans' bullpen was a bit shaky last weekend, including allowing Long Beach to come back from a 4-0 deficit in the Dirtbags' 8-5 win.
3. No. 16 Stanford at No. 4 Vanderbilt
Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire. The Cardinal have their own version of a prison camp death march as they go from a three-gamer at Rice to a weekend at Vanderbilt. Both teams had impressive opening weekends as the Cardinal took two of three from the Owls in Houston and the Commodores went to San Diego and beat the Toreros twice, while also winning a game at San Diego State.
Key stat: The dirty dozen. Vandy hit only .264 in its trip to SoCal last weekend, but the Dores were 12 of 13 in stolen bases.
Key matchup: Stanford's defense versus Vandy's big bats. The Cardinal did almost everything right in their weekend series win at Rice: hitting (a decent .292 against that Rice staff), pitching (a 2.57 ERA) and handling the pressure of a big crowd on the road. But the defense has fielded at a porous .948 level so far. If Stanford gives extra outs to wicked sticks like Aaron Westlake, Jason Esposito and Anthony Gomez, it could be curtains for the Cardinal.
4. The Caravelle Resort Tournament (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)
Teams involved: No. 20 Coastal Carolina, California, Kansas State, Western Kentucky, North Carolina State, Pacific
A great six-team weekend for Baseball at the Beach, hosted by Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers had some rough spots last weekend, including a 2-1 loss to Indiana and having to rally mightily to overcome Virginia Tech, so I might even label Kansas State or Cal as having a better-than-average chance of winning the weekend overall. But the Chants might just be working some kinks out and be ready to explode.
Key stat: 4BBs. Keep an eye on CCU ace Anthony Meo. It looks like he'll face a dangerous K-State offense and last week against Boston College, he got in some trouble by issuing four walks and putting runners in scoring position.
Key matchup: Cal versus Coastal Carolina. Rain played havoc with the Bears last weekend, but they eventually took a doubleheader from Utah and then lost a white-knuckler to Stanford on Tuesday. But this is the perfect time for a statement weekend, especially if Meo throws versus KSU on Thursday. This Saturday matchup could favor the Bears, especially if Erik Johnson can repeat last week's 7 IP, 8 K, 0 BB performance.
5. No. 7 Texas at Hawaii
I'm sure Augie and his boys took note of how tough Hawaii was on highly regarded Oregon last week, don't you think? The Warriors played three one-run games versus the Ducks and won two of them. It's Week 2 of the season and we may have already found the toughest-minded team in the country.
Key stat: 0-for-4. Hawaii's starting pitchers went winless in the four games last week. Reliever Blair Walters came out of the 'pen to lock down both wins versus UO.
Key matchup: Taylor Jungmann versus Kolten Wong. These two All-Americans should put on a hell of a show. Jungmann was his usual awesomeness, getting a five-hitter versus Maryland, and Wong is picking up right where he left off in the Cape last summer, still hot. The Warriors leader hit .347 against that tough Oregon rotation.
For the full list of places to be, check out ESPN.com's baseball blog.
Top 25 matchups
San Jose State at No. 1 UCLA
No. 9 Cal State Fullerton at No. 2 TCU
Boston College at No. 3 Florida
No. 16 Stanford at No. 4 Vanderbilt
Cincinnati/Charleston Southern at No. 5 Clemson
Oakland at No. 6 Oklahoma
No. 7 Texas at Hawaii
Southern Illinois at No. 8 South Carolina
Saint Mary's at No. 10 Oregon
Hofstra at No. 11 Florida State
Delaware at No. 12 Arizona State
Gonzaga at No. 13 Texas A&M
East Carolina at No. 14 Virginia
Holy Cross at No. 15 LSU
USC at No. 17 Rice
Appalachian State at No. 18 Miami
St. John's at No. 19 Georgia Tech
Cal/WKU/NC State at No. 20 Coastal Carolina
Toledo at No. 21 Louisville
Oregon State/Indiana/TAMU-CC vs. No. 22 UConn
Radford at No. 23 Auburn
Utah at No. 24 Arkansas
No. 25 Arizona at Long Beach State
Wittels' hit streak ends
In Focus: Florida
The No. 3-ranked Gators are off to a rousing 4-0 start that has seen them outscore their opponents 29-5. I caught up with head coach Kevin O'Sullivan after his team's 13-2 win over Florida Atlantic on Tuesday night. -- Eric Sorenson
ES: Stating the obvious here, you guys have been pretty impressive so far. Even though it's early, has there been anything that has surprised you about your team?
KO: Well, we've played four games so far and we've committed one error and walked two batters and any time you do that you're going to give yourself a chance to win, especially with these new bats. I'm a little surprised and pleased we've played so well defensively and pitchingwise. We're going to have to keep playing at that level to achieve our goals this season.
ES: With all the great recruiting classes you've had the last few years, there's only one baseball out there. How do you keep guys happy?
KO: The guys figure things out. They know that they are going to have to play hard and give a great effort. And they know we're going to go with the guy who is hot, that's just how it is. They also learn how to be great teammates too. They're all in this together and can't play selfish.
ES: Considering how last season ended, do you feel like your guys stayed motivated in the offseason?
KO: Oh yeah. I mean, even if we had won a couple of games up there in Omaha, we would've handled things the same way. It was all business, that's it. You give credit to UCLA and Florida State, they're great teams and we didn't play well. I thought our guys had a great offseason and came back ready to work again.
ES: OK, you ready for the dumbest question ever? Did freshman pitcher Karsten Whitson come to campus SEC-ready?
KO: No. Not at all. I don't care where a guy gets drafted or how great his is, nobody comes to our league ready to face those kind of teams. It's going to be a big learning curve when conference play begins. He's a great talent, but he'll hit some bumps and will have to learn how to rebound from them just like everyone else.
KO: So many things. Mostly just how to run a program. And by that it's all the things that go into it, like getting guys ready for all the other things in life beyond baseball. Letting them know what is really important. So many people want to talk about the X's and O's of a coach, but he was incredible at all the off-the-field things that readied guys for the next phase in life.
Under the radar: FAU
Mike Albaladejo, C, Florida Atlantic
At 5-foot-7, 162 pounds, if you don't look close you might miss the most important player on Florida Atlantic's squad. Not even his stats will knock you down as he hit just .251 last season. But ask coach John McCormack who the most valuable player on the team is and he won't hesitate; it's junior catcher Mike Albaladejo.
"He's the heart and soul of this team," McCormack said. "He's the spark plug. And he's a phenomenal catcher, who blocks everything, he throws really well and he calls the game for us. People were shocked to see that he was the team captain as a sophomore last year."
"Abby," as he is known, is one of those typical talents who has a lot of ability but slips through the cracks a little in recruiting.
"Everyone was scared off by his size," McCormack said. "But we weren't. He demands respect. He holds our guys accountable and he motivates them year-round. He's cracking the whip all the time in drills."
"Every coach in our league tells me, 'Oh we love your catcher. We'd take a guy like that.' And I have to say, I agree with them." -- Eric Sorenson
Under the radar: Columbia
Nowhere else in college baseball will you find a more important event than the Urban Invitational, which will hold its fourth annual tournament at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., this coming weekend. Wrapped around the hoopla of the SWAC and MEAC teams taking on the local national powers on the diamond are all the important factors that go into this event off the field.
The Urban Youth Academy's mission is all about education. From the college fair that features more than 20 local colleges and universities to the free kids clinic that is held in conjunction with the tournament, and most importantly, the showcasing of HBCU programs like Southern, Bethune-Cookman and Grambling to expose more inner-city youth to the idea of playing college baseball and stem the dwindling number of black players in our sport.
So while the matchups on the field are unique and the games are a lot of fun, those things pale in comparison to the message that is being delivered, as described by Darrell Miller, the executive director of the Urban Youth Academy.
"The reason we created this Urban Invitational is if you look at the stats of the scouting bureaus, 70 percent of the kids out of the United States that make it to the major league come from college," Miller said. "So we have to do a better job of getting inner-city kids into college." -- Eric Sorenson
Upset watch: Rice
USC at No. 17 Rice
How weird is this? Who would've thought 10 years ago we'd be talking about a USC win over Rice being labeled an upset. But here we are. After a coaching change in the offseason, the Trojans seem to have a renewed fervor to them. They went 2-1 last weekend, beating Missouri and Cal Poly, and then blew a lead and crumbled late in the 11-7 loss to North Carolina. Fourth-round draftee Austin Wood picked up a win in his first outing as a Trojan by striking out six batters in 5.0 innings versus the Mustangs. Also, SC hit .357 as a team on the weekend, without relying on heavy-hitting Ricky Oropesa as its only means of offense. Here at Reckling Park is where we'll see if this is a bounce-back year for USC. Two more red flags for this series: Rice lost to Lamar on Tuesday night 12-7 and gave up 23 hits on the night; and Rice's recent record against teams in the Pacific time zone isn't so good, as the Owls have gone 10-15 in the past four seasons. -- Eric Sorenson
Watch out for: Virginia
Speaking of versatility, Virginia's "Incredible Hultzen" is at it again. Junior Danny Hultzen allowed just one run on three hits with one walk in 6 2/3 innings and added three RBIs to help the Cavs win their opener Friday night, 6-4 over UAB. Hultzen was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2009 and the ACC Pitcher of the Year last season. On Friday, he struck out 10 and went 2-for-4 at the plate. The lefty, who plays first base or the outfield when he is not on the mound, is expected to be a first-round pick in June -- as a pitcher.-- Walter Villa
What we're reading
• Insider's Jeff Bradley talks to players and coaches about their initial reaction to the new bats after the first week of the season.
• Draft expert Jason Churchill is monitoring the draft stock of some of the sport's biggest names.
• Jeff Sackman looks at what we learned during opening weekend.
• Churchill also looks at how the new bats have changed scouting -- for the better.